Report of the Google Geo Developer Day in Amsterdam

Yesterday I was at the Google Geo Developer day in Amsterdam. I think it’s the second time Google organizes such an event. The first time was last year preceding the Oreilly’s Where 2.0 conference in the US (btw. why isn’t there such an event in Europe?).

The program looked interesting and I was looking forward meeting other Google Maps developers.

The day started with some keynotes.

Bernard Seefelds

First speaker was Bernard Seefelds (Google/Endoxon). There was an interesting link to Dutch history in his talk. During the Age of Discovery the Dutch were well known for the maps they created on there exploration missions. One of the areas they mapped, was ‘New Holland’ (Australia). Back in those days they could only create maps of the pieces of land they saw with their own eyes. The areas they didn’t know about had dragons drawn on them.

At this moment about one third of populated land mass is being covered by Google Maps/Earth, but there aren’t any dragons on the other two third 🙂

The rest of his talk was about Google’s Geo Mission (to organize the world’s geographical information and make it universally accessible and useful on every device) and the different products (Maps, Earth and Sketchup).

One of the questions Bernard asked the audience was about how many people have added their business information to the Local Business Center? I was surprised to see only a few hands rise up. I guess this option isn’t well known.

A question from the audience was about whether Google will create support for other coordinate systems, e.g. the Dutch RD system. Bernard answered that this was one of the reasons why they’ve created the Open Source GMaps Utility Library project.

Brandon Badger

The second speaker was Brandon Badger (Product Manager, Google Maps API). He started his talk with the question “Why do I need a map to understand my data?”. He used an example of some million+ dollar house somewhere in the stats. Without the map you could only see what the house liked like. With a map, you could see the house was near a gas station and at a very busy street.

Until yesterday I never understood why Google Earth is sometimes better then Google Maps (besides the fun factor and the 3d stuff). With Google Earth users can choose which layers they want to combine. If you’re looking for a new house where a school is nearby, you could combine the ‘house for sell’ layer with the ‘schools’ layer. I never thought about it this way.

Brandon talked about the history of the Google Maps API. Before there was an official API Paul Rademacher created a Google Maps mashup for Craig’s list. Btw Paul is working for Google now 🙂

Other things Brandon talked about were “What’s a mashup”, GeoRSS/KML support in Google Maps, difference between the free API licensee and the Enterprise License.

There were lots of questions from the audience. Two of these questions I found most interesting. The first one was about whether or not Google will force the use of adds in Mashups. Brandon told this was not going to happen. There will be an opt-in way of adding adds to your own mashup.

The other interesting question was: “What about making Google Earth web based?”. Brandon answer to that one, was: “I cannot comment on that”. Interesting 🙂

Remco Kouwenhoven

The final speaker for the morning was Remco Kouwenhoven. Remco is the maintainer of Nederkaart which is the Dutch Googlemapsmania. If you’re interested in Dutch Google Maps/Earth Mashups, this is the Blog to watch.

A few interesting things from his presentation:

  • Most of the Dutch Mashups are Google related.
  • Not everybody knows how the Maps interface works, so don’t forget to add help information.

I’m curious how many email Remco will get about Mashups that aren’t listed yet 🙂


After lunch there were three workshops (Google Maps API, Google Earth, Sketchup). You could only attend two of them, so I went to the API an Sketchup workshop.

The API workshop was very basic, there were some advanced examples you could try on your own, but for a next time I think it would be better to have a beginners and an advanced session.

The Sketchup session was fun. It looked so easy the way it was demonstrated. It’s a pity there is still no Linux version.


Maybe the program was sometimes a bit too much focused on beginners and the presentations weren’t that spectacular, but in the end I had a great day. I’ve talked to a lot of people, including Remco, Justin and the guys from Swis.

other blogs writing about the GeoDay: